California dreamin’ …

The iconic sounds of 1960s California filled the Jacob Burns Film Center July 29. A screening of “Echo in the Canyon” was followed by a conversation with veteran rock radio personality Dennis Elsas.

WAG took a virtual trip to 1960s California earlier this week thanks to a special event July 29 at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.

The evening provided the chance to become immersed, if only for (too short) a time, in the “California Sound” created in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canon in the mid-’60s.

The evening got underway with a screening of “Echo in the Canyon,” a 2019 film directed by Andrew Slater and led onscreen by musician Jakob Dylan (of The Wallflowers fame and also, of course, a son of Bob Dylan).

The film, filled with songs from The Byrds and The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas, included commentary, sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, by a host of musicians of the era including Brian Wilson, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne and, notably, Tom Petty in what’s believed to be his last film interview. Rounding out the study of influences, inspirations and the power of music were comments and performances by contemporary artists including Norah Jones, Beck, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple and a breakout turn from Jade Castrinos.

Following the movie, veteran rock radio personality Dennis Elsas shared his thoughts on what he called this “terrific, terrific period of time” in a conversation with Karen Sloe Goodman, Jacob Burns Film Center programmer.

Elsas, the longtime Rye resident profiled in WAG back in late 2015, is not only a noted air personality and voiceover artist but is also known for his musical programming and historic interviews with rock legends from John Lennon to Mick Jagger. Most closely associated with the late, legendary WNEW-FM, Elsas today is on the air on both WFUV Radio and on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Elsas provided the necessary perspective, getting to the heart of things by noting that the film was “more about the ‘echo’ as opposed to being about the Canyon.” He and Goodman raised a number of points that added depth and perspective to what we had all just seen. The conclusion was, and it seemed many agreed, that the film was enjoyable if a bit unfocused.

As Elsas said, “We weren’t meaning to bash the film at all. There are pros and cons. The music is beautiful.”

And he shared what we think many likely felt: “At the end of the day, I’m so happy it exists.”

There was a mention, too, of a second film on the same topic, a Laurel Canyon documentary due out later this year that will offer a more straightforward approach. Goodman said they are hoping to have Elsas back to discuss that film – and we’re hoping the same.

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– Mary Shustack


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